I like TV. Okay, I may watch too much TV, and I tend to be critical, because I’m a writer. I’m getting sick and tired of some ridiculous actions and mistakes that so many scriptwriters make in TV scripts. When I see them, I want to scream. I know it’s fiction, but I do expect fiction to make some sense. Here’s what I’m talking about.:
- Violating Newton’s Laws of Gravity. I know you’ve all seen this one. The hero throws a rope or chain around the villain’s neck and throws the other end over a beam or tree branch. Then, believe it or not he/she hoists the villain off the ground. Here’s the problem – there’d be no advantage without a pulley. The hero must weigh considerably more than the bad guy for this to work. It’s simple mechanics – Newton’s 2nd Law of Gravity (the sum of the forces on a mass) Therefore, the force applied by pulling down on the rope must be greater than the weight of the object, in this case, the villain, to raise the object. It doesn’t matter how strong the hero’s arms are unless his/her feet are anchored.
- Karate kicks that are too powerful. Here’s another common sight – our hero kicks an opponent, and the opponent goes flying backwards through the air. No way. I have a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do, so I know a little about it. Once again, it’s mechanics — Newton’s third law (for every force there is an opposite and equal force) If one person kicks another hard enough to make them fly backwards, the kicker also will fly backward. Think about it – the foot or fist is small compared to the body. It would be like a chisel hitting a stone. The target wouldn’t fly backwards, but a rib or ribs would break.
- Parking directly in front of building. This is another scene that bugs me. Our hero pulls up to a build and finds a parking spot right in front and there’s no meter. It what universe would that happen? I have lived in NYC, LA, Chicago, Washington D.C. and a few other big cities. It never happens. People must arrive very early to park in front, and there’s usually a meter. Our hero would have to park in a parking garage or parking lot farther away. It might happen in a rural area, small town or suburb but not in a big city.
- Ridiculous stake outs. The scene shows one or two detectives sitting in a car on a stakeout right in front of suspect’s house or work-place. Usually, there seems to be a light under the dash. No one challenges them or even notices – in the fictional world no one would ever notice a strange car in the neighborhood. It… would… never… happen. A nosey neighbor or neighborhood watch would notice. Even in a high crime area, people would suspect the detectives were drug dealers or narcs and alert the suspect or police.
- Extremely explosive hand grenades. You know the scene. Our hero throws a hand grenade and it explodes in a huge fire ball and people fly up into the air. That just blows my mind. Most grenades are fragmentation grenades that look like baseballs. They use a small explosive surrounded by a notched wire – no gas or fuel. Incendiary grenades look like beer cans and burn rather than explode. A hand grenade would not have a huge fire ball and wouldn’t blow people up into the air.
- Bad guys who are terrible shots. You would think that professional killers could at least hit the side of a barn when shooting. But no, our hero kills someone with every shot while the professional killers can’t seem to hit anything. The hero can run from cover to cover or through open terrain and it’s as if the bad guys are shooting blanks. I guess the bad guys aim low, because the shots kick up dirt around our hero’s feet. Give me a break.
- Popping up to shoot. Our hero is behind a rock or some other bullet proof cover and periodically pops up to shoot. Yeah, right. That would never work. The bad guys would take aim at that spot and shoot our hero as soon as he/she pops. It might work if our hero could move to a different spot before popping up.
- Breaking necks with a twist of the hands. Our hero grabs the head of a bad guy with two hands and twists, killing him instantly. Theoretically, it might work, but here’s the problem; the neck muscles are very strong. Even if the villain is totally relaxed and surprised, the body’s natural reaction is to resist. If it were that easy, there would be more deaths in wrestling. I have wrestled off and on for ten years. It ain’t that easy. Now there are way to break a person’s neck, but I won’t disclose them here. Also, a broken neck doesn’t always mean instant death.
- One punch knockout. This is like the broken neck. I’ve done a little boxing and a lot of karate, and on a few rare occasions I have seen one-punch knockouts, but they are rare. In most cases, the person has a glass jaw.
- Throwing knives. When I was in junior high, I wasted a lot of my time practicing throwing knives. It wouldn’t be the best choice to kill an opponent. If the thrower misses, the intended victim could use the knife. Throwing knives to cut wires or ropes – forget it.
- Ticking bombs. It’s a tense scene. Our hero must figure out which wire to cut while a clock nearby counts down the time in bold, red letters. What a laugh. Most bombs consist of a power supply (or just a switch), an initiator that causes the bomb to explode (often a blasting cap), an explosive and maybe something for shrapnel. If the explosive is like C-4, the bomb maker just sticks the blasting cap in the C-4. Therefore, if possible, the quickest way to render a bomb harmless is to pull out the blasting cap. Be sure to move them far away from the explosive.
- Stereotypical detectives. It seems in every detective show the protagonist keeps some evidence secret or lies about it. They also chase leads and clues without backup and never call ahead to the local law enforcement to secure the suspect. Come on! They can’t all be rogues. Oh, did I mention they like to drink? No tea drinkers.
- Not wearing head protection. I am appalled when I see our heroes joining the SWAT team without heads protection. Say it ain’t so. At least they don’t get shot in the head.
- Holding the rope during rappelling. I love this one. Our hero rappels down a cliff while his/her partner (anchor) holds on to the other end. This might be possible if the anchor is sitting, has some way to brace the feet or weighs 400 pounds. Otherwise, the anchor will be pulled over the cliff.
- Getting confidential information on patients from nurses and doctors. I go crazy when I watch a TV show where a detective (Chicago PD) or fireman (Chicago FD) goes up to the nurses’ station (Chicago Med) and asks about the status of a patient and is told. It’s a clear violation of HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). It’s illegal for medical personnel to divulge medical information on patients without the patient’s consent. It could happen but probably won’t except in Chicago.
- Getting romantic after a near death experience. I know you’ve seen this. Our hero and the significant other barely survive disaster. It could be a group of assassins, a natural disaster or space aliens trying to conquer the earth. Immediate the two decide this would be a great time to make out. Duh? I would think it would be a good time to change underwear, stay alert in case the monster returns or one of the killers is merely wounded, or catch some shut eye.
- Sex in the hospital linen closet. This is why I don’t like hospital shows. I used to work in a hospital. Believe me, if the linen closet was big enough for sex, the hospital would turn it into a patient room. It’s all about business and profit and loss. I doubt that sex in a hospital is a healthy thing.
- “The last person to see the victim alive.” This also bugs me. The detective is investigating a violent murder and questioning a suspect. He tells the suspect, “You were the last person to see the victim alive.” Duh. The last person to see a victim of a violent murder is the murder. Arrest that person. Might as well say, “You were the first person to see the victim dead.”
I hope these tips help you budding screenwriters. Best wishes.